Don't rely on HR to protect your rights, NYS says

Oct 30, 2020

Discrimination issues haven't gone away, even in these COVID-19 days of remote work and school. That is why the New York State Division of Human Rights held an information session virtually Thursday evening.

As Albany has added protections in anti-discrimination laws and expanded the issues covered, things have grown more complicated. The DHR has been holding a series of informational sessions across the state via Zoom to talk about laws like the Dignity for All Students Act, or DASA, and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, known as GENDA.

DASA protects students, particularly students who are different in sexual orientation or dress or many other categories. GENDA protects those who are transgender or who don't identify as binary, male or female.

Credit New York State Education Department

Key to the state sessions is a series of fictional situations in which participants are asked to meet in breakout sections, study the facts and answer questions provided by the DHR. External Relations Director Ron Zacchi said it isn't just enforcing legal rights, it's also protecting against citizens being punished for exercising those rights.

"Disclosing information that you may have on the person that you received through certain types of applications or any way that you would have received information in disclosing that information, such as outing a person, could also be considered harassment," Zacchi said. "If the supervisor or someone at your place of employment or in any of the scenarios does something like fires you or something like because of making the claim, what DHR then provides is for you to make a secondary claim of retaliation and that claim will be investigated separately from the discrimination claim."

Participants were told they can't always rely on Human Resource departments to enforce state law.